Being the Example I Wish I Had

A week ago, I came home from ReaderCon – something I felt sure was entirely off the table this year. But I went. With the baby. And what’s more, I participated in a tiny bit of programming: a live recording of The Word Count Podcast. Despite not having submitted anything in a long, long time. For the live recording, I had over a month to write the damn thing, and I still could have used more time. Forget trying to record it with the baby around. Listen to the podcast. You’ll hear her.

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Photo of the panel reading from R. B. Wood. Left to right: baby, me (reading my story), Kathleen Kayembe, Walt Williams, Richard Wood.

The next day, I reposted this photo on Instagram. Someone commented, calling me her hero for doing this with a baby. (Honestly, it was the only real option to be had. It would have been nice to have her elsewhere for a bit so I could be wholly present.) Good things – like bad – come in threes, so that day I also had someone come up to me and compliment my story from the reading, and the editor of an anthology I submitted to a couple years ago told me that my submission had made her top five. So yay!

But this post is about examples. And being one.

The other day, I was nursing in public. As you do when babies need to constantly eat, but you also have things to do and places to go. And a woman came up to me with her four-month-old to thank me because seeing other women breastfeeding helped her make the decision to do that with her baby.

My expectations of motherhood always involved nursing (which led to several unnecessary and emotionally painful moments in the first few months when we were sure that would work out, but that’s maybe for another post), so it had never quite clicked until then that some people might need that example.

But for that woman, the examples made a difference.

In the years of wanting and trying to get pregnant, throughout my pregnancy, and even now, I’ve been searching for examples of artist parents still doing their creative thing with babies and young children. Celebrities who can hire nannies and mother’s helpers don’t count. I mean, I left work largely because childcare is too expensive. Thank you, US and your lack of support for children once they’re born.

So that’s why this blog has shifted focus to this tightrope walking challenge of being a writer/creative/artist while parenting. I know I’m not alone, but the examples that prove it can be done (though perhaps not gracefully) are distinctly lacking. And even though I’m here writing about it and hoping these words help someone else – or at least entertain – I still need others’ examples at times.

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Baby, crawling during a panel discussion. I sat with her to keep her from exploring under the seats to other rows, but what you don’t see is the notebook on the chair beside me where I attempted to scribble notes when things jumped out at me. Con with a baby is a very different experience.

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